By George Routledge.
To introduce persons who are mutually unknown is to undertake a serious responsibility, and to certify to each the respectability of the other. Never undertake this responsibility without in the first place asking yourself whether the persons are likely to be agreeable to each other; nor, in the second place, without ascertaining whether it will be acceptable to both parties to become acquainted.
Always introduce the gentleman to the lady—never the lady to the gentleman. The chivalry of etiquette assumes that the lady is invariably the superior in right of her sex, and that the gentleman is honored in the introduction. This rule is to be observed even when the social rank of the gentleman is higher than that of the lady.
Where the sexes are the same, always present the inferior to the superior.
Never present a gentleman to a lady without first asking her permission to do so.
When you are introduced to a gentleman, never offer your hand. When introduced, persons limit their recognition of each other to a bow. On the Continent, ladies never shake hands with gentlemen unless under circumstances of great intimacy.
Never introduce morning visitors who happen to encounter each other in your drawing-room, unless they are persons whom you have already obtained permission to make known to each other. Visitors thus casually meeting in the house of a friend should converse with ease and freedom, as if they were acquainted. That they are both friends of the hostess is a sufficient guarantee of their respectability. To be silent and stiff on such an occasion would show much-ignorance and ill-breeding.
Persons who have met at the house of a mutual friend, without being introduced, should not bow if they afterwards meet elsewhere. A bow implies acquaintance; and persons who have not been introduced are not acquainted.
If you are walking with one friend, and presently meet with, or are joined by, a third, do not commit the too frequent error of introducing them to each other. You have even less right to do so than if they encountered each other at your house during a morning call.
There are some exceptions to the etiquette of introductions. At a ball, or evening party where there is dancing, the mistress of the house may introduce any gentleman to any lady without first asking the lady’s permission. But she should first ascertain whether the lady is willing to dance; and this out of consideration for the gentleman, who may otherwise be refused. No man likes to be refused the hand of a lady, though it be only for a quadrille.
A sister may present her brother, or a mother her son, without any kind of preliminary; but only when there is no inferiority on the part of her own family to that of the acquaintance.
Friends may introduce friends at the house of a mutual acquaintance; but, as a rule, it is better to be introduced by the mistress of the house. Such an introduction carries more authority with it.
Introductions at evening parties are now almost wholly dispensed with. Persons who meet at a friend’s house are ostensibly equals, and pay a bad compliment to the host by appearing overly formal. Some old-fashioned country hosts yet persevere in introducing each new comer to all the assembled guests. It is a custom that cannot be too soon abolished, and one that places the last unfortunate visitor in a singularly awkward position. All that she can do is to make a semicircular courtesy, like a concert singer before an audience, and bear the general gaze with as much composure as possible.
If, when you enter a drawing-room, your name has been wrongly announced, or has passed unheard in the buzz of conversation, make your way at once to the mistress of the house, if you are a stranger, and introduce yourself by name. This should be done with the greatest simplicity, and your rank made as little of as possible.
An introduction given at a ball for the mere purpose of conducting a lady through a dance does not give the gentleman any right to bow to her on a future occasion. If he commits this error, she may remember that she is not bound to see, or return, his salutation.
This is taken from Routledge's Manual of Etiquette.
Copyright © D. J. McAdam· All Rights Reserved